Robert David Lion Gardiner
In 1960 Robert David Lion Gardiner, the 16th Lord of Gardiner's Island and Sagtikos Manor, was initiated as a member of the Arturo Toscanini Lodge #2107. He became a Lodge Trustee in 1961. Gardiner's Island and Sagtikos Manor were deeded to his family by the King of England. Robert is shown below (center) being congratulated by founder, Eraldo Colini (right), now deceased.
Robert Gardiner provided information on his family tree that proved that although his family came from England, that they had migrated there from Italy. At the left is NY OSIA State Recording Secretary (1928-1973), and a Brother Bene Emeritus, Gregorio Morabito, now deceased, who had the unique ability of taking shorthand in both Italian and English.
Arturo Toscanini By Robert David Lion Gardiner
Arturo Toscanini was a man of the people from the moment of his first appearance in this world on March 25, 1867. The son of a leader of the liberal Garibaldi group, a local tailor in Parma, Italy, Arturo exemplified the many contributions the Italians have made to the American scene. It is very fitting that this lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America be called the Arturo Toscanini Lodge. His musical triumphs in America represented the epitome of the close cultural ties uniting Italy and America. With such a Figli d'ltalia, it makes us proud to be of ltalian-American descent.
Though neither of his parents was musically inclined, he showed an early aptitude for the cello and before long was enrolled in the conservatory of Parma. While on his first concert tour on June 30 1887, in Rio de Janeiro, at the age of 19 this child prodigy, because of his remarkable memory, was chosen at the last moment to pinch-hit for the regular conductor. Young Toscanini must have made a comical picture in a much too voluminous frock coat, struggling through the complicated score of Verdi's Aida from memory. Complimented on his brilliant performance he modestly pointed out two errors, one in the first act and one in the third act.
His exceptional insight as an interpreter and his magnetic control of his musicians were basically responsible for his rapid rise to Chief Conductor of Teatreo Alla Scala at Milan in 1898. He resigned from this prestigious position on a matter of principle ... namely his refusal to permit traditional encores, which he considered a form of tyranny. A near riot resulted and the adamant young maestro did not return to his beloved La Scala for eight years.
Toscanini's arrival at the Metropolitan Opera as assistant to Gatti Casazza in 1908 was anything but auspicious. The members of the orchestra smiled contemptuously at the Little Mustachioed Italian when he attempted to introduce the works of a fellow countryman called Giuseppe Verdi. Noting their patronizing smiles, in typical Toscanini fashion, he bade them put away their Verdi scores, elected Wagner's "Die Gotterdammerung," and proceeded to conduct the entire score by heart!!
Several years later he returned to America and toured with the La Scala Orchestra having again been elected as director. Toscanini was invited to serve as guest conductor of the NY Philharmonic Orchestra from 1926 to 1928 becoming the regular conductor in 1928 when he left and served as its regular conductor until 1933, having left Italy as a protestation against Fascism.
Milan and NY were Toscanini's main centers of interest, and his musical scores, like the extremes of his life, ran the gamut from basic traditionalism to bold innovation. While he revered Verdi and conducted the first performance of Verdi's "Quattro Pezzi Sacri" for chorus and orchestra, he also directed the 1928 production of Puccini's "Turnadot" after the composer's death. Puccini had in fact paid him the supreme compliment saying, "Toscanini, the traditionalist, conducted not only as the composer composed the piece, but also even as he conceived it."
By the same token, in his private life, Toscanini enjoyed a reputation as a "ladies' man", but eschewed the thought of ever divorcing his faithful wife Carla di Marrini whom he married shortly before the turn of the century. Mistresses came and went, but Carla remained her husband's devoted slave and continued to retain a strong grip on her husband's financial affairs, which she managed expertly. However, one of his more widely known infatuations with a Milanese soprano almost created a scandal. When Toscanini's immorota appeared on stage with a doll prop required for her role, the gallery shouted en masse "bambino Toscanini."
Mercurial in temperament. Toscanini introduced his orchestra to the spectacle of a conductor who roared in-four languages, mostly Italian, fell on his knees, and clenched his hands in prayer begging "Secondi violini, see I pray to you on my knees, give me the pianissimo I desire!" He varied this by shouting "Assassin" and clutching his head in despair when his flutist failed to come in on time for his few notes.
Toscanini established many firsts. He was the first non-German conductor at the Bayreuth Festival (1930-1931) where he conducted Tristan, Parsifal, and Die Meistersinger. In the 1930's he helped recreate the artistic prestige of the Salzburg Festival where his electric and monumental performances of Fidelio, Tristan, and Tannhauser always resulted in standing ovations (though after the union of Austria and Germany, he resigned from both Bayreuth and Salzburg in protest over the Nazi persecution of Jewish musicians). He also introduced his countrymen to Wagner's Gotterdammerung, and the music of Debussy, Richard Strauss and early Stravinsky.
Toscanini was not all martinet, he was a sensitive human being ... with the most delicate feeling for the sensuous possibilities of each instrument, although this sensitivity did not extend to the human voice. But he was equally intolerant of his own voice. Absentmindedly, he used to sing along with the orchestra. Appalled at his own croaking, he once stopped rehearsal to ask sharply, "Who's making that noise"?
Toscanini shared a not since equaled rapport with the audience who loved him for his wealth of sympathy, his versatility of repertoire, which increased with age, his unique fusion of intense emotional fire, logic and subtlety. At his last regular concert with the New York Philharmonic in April 1936, crowds lined up in the streets before dawn, waiting to get in. Orchestra seats went as high as $100 each. Bravo after bravo greeted his performance, and the audience wouldn't leave until the orchestra's manager stepped out to say, "the maestro asks to say he loves you and begs to be excused."
It's interesting to note that when he returned to the Philharmonic in 1942 after a 6-year absence to conduct 6 post-season all-Beethoven concerts, at the very first rehearsal - - with no preliminaries - he began to conduct, and the orchestra played as if they had played for him just the day before. "They have remembered everything I taught them; nothing is missing" Toscanini explained with satisfaction.
Toscanini reached even larger audiences as organizer and conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he was associated from 1937 to 1954. In 1937 he modestly refused an Oxford University degree of Doctor of Music, but endeared himself to millions of British by conducting a concert at Oxford to aid the University's reopening of the La Scala Theatre in 1946 - - after World War II his concerts made it possible. His South-American tour with the National Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra won friends for America and Italy throughout the hemisphere. He was literally our envoy extraordinaire!
For a long time he refused all offers to make records. But who can forget his accomplishments when he finally yielded to popular demand and we were privileged to hear his recordings of Beethoven's "Eroica," Brahm's "First Symphony," and the third Leonora Overture.
Granted that he was a veritable cyclone, a man whom symphonic orchestras treated with kid gloves, and an overweening disciplinarian, he was intolerant of mediocrity and had also an insatiable interest in costuming and staging.
He spent his last years in his sprawling twenty room home in Riverdale, NY - getting up at 6:30 a.m., studying scores, reading over his past triumphs, preparing for future appearances, and playing with his granddaughter, Sonia. He sired three children - Walter, who became an RCA official, Wally, the Countess Castlebarco, wife of the noted Italian painter and poet, and Wanda, who added to the musical lustre of the Toscanini name by marrying famed pianist Vladimir Horowitz. He wasn't a gourmet - a bowl of soup (and we don't even know that it was minestrone) sufficed at a banquet - - and it is still unknown how he had the willpower to give up pasta, lasagna, ravioli, fettuccine, etc. Nor did he smoke. He was fond of saying, "I kissed my first woman and smoked my first cigarette on the same day; I have never had time for tobacco since".
When Toscanini died on January 16, 1957, at his home in Riverdale, he left behind a legend that knows no parallel; he lives on in the annals of music, a society and civilization which will never die, and in the minds of millions the greatest conductor who ever lived.